Thursday, July 24, 2008

Jerome Holtzman 1926-2008

Today we acknowledge the passing of the greatest of baseball scribes, Jerome Holtzman, who covered the grand old game for decades as a beat writer and baseball columnist for the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times.

Nicknamed "The Dean" by Cubs Hall of Famer Billy Williams, Holtzman set the standard for baseball coverage, breaking big stories and regularly scooping reporters half his age. He is best known for inventing the pitching save, which baseball adopted as an official new statistic in 1966. It was the first major new baseball stat since the RBI in 1920.

Holtzman's book No Cheering in the Press Box is to sports reporting what Mike Royko's Boss is to politics: a seminal primer by a Chicago newspaperman that remains widely admired and taught on college campuses to this day.

After Holtzman retired from the Trib in 1998, commissioner Bud Selig immediately hired him as baseball's first official historian, in which capacity he had long unofficially served.

I exchanged a few hellos with Mr. Holtzman around the ballyard during my eight years as a vendor at Wrigley Field and Comiskey Parks old and new. I didn't know him personally but read him with great interest as so many others did.

The Dean was also a wise professor, and when you read a Jerome Holtzman column, class was in session. His clear writing explained the nuances of the game, bringing readers into the sport's inner circle with a healthy spadeful of inside dirt.

Jerry Holtzman was the sportswriter I made a point of reading when I was growing up. Even as a kid I could tell he was doing something good for the game.

The Tribune's obituary is here, the Sun-Times' is here, and fond remembrances such as this one are everywhere.

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